Thursday, November 11, 2010

Winding Stair

My neck is feeling pretty solid these days, but there are no more Weekly Beatdowns and it gets dark too early to ride home from work now, so no commuting either. What's a guy to do to get in a couple of miles during the week?

Obviously, night riding. Most people fire up the lights and spin a couple of laps around Blankets or Big Creek, and I'll probably do my share of that later this year, but tonight, I had bigger plans. I parked at the Mt. Zion Church across from Camp Merrill at about 6:30 and was on the bike by 6:45. It was officially dark at that point and I was officially nervous, this being the first night ride I've done in the mountains in years, and the inaugural run for this light as well. I don't remember the brand, but the battery and light are all in self-contained unit. The battery just locks into the back of the light itself. It's about the same size as my helmet cam and only marginally heavier. And, it was about half the price of a comparable Stella. If it works, it'll be awesome. It's got 4 settings, so I set it on the dimmest one, which should allegedly last 10 hours, and took off up Cooper Gap Road.

Almost immediately I ran into this little guy...


Some kind of juvenile snake. It looked black at first, but it wasn't a rat snake, or a racer. It had some interesting brown markings developing on it's back and sort-of a trianglish-head. Maybe a juvenile cottonmouth. I really couldn't tell. It did seem weird that it was out in the dark and cold, given that it's cold blooded and all, but maybe that's when the mice come out.

I rode up to Cooper Gap, took a left, headed to Winding Stair and aside from the snake and passing two trucks, it was pretty uneventful. For the descent down Winding Stair, I bumped up the power on the light. This was the inaugural ride for some Mountain King 2.2's too, so I didn't really rail the downhill, but between the tires and the new fork, it felt way better than last time. That is, right up until I front-flatted on some large, invisible rock that hit so hard it tweaked out my right thumb. It was a quick change though, the tires came off easily. Yay.

Left onto a very leafy Turner Creek, left on FS28-1, left up FS28-A, up the No-Tell Connector, which somebody forgot about when cleaning up ribbons after the Fool's Gold. Somebody!

Don't worry, I got 'em :)

At No-Tell, it was time for some nav practice. I shouldered my bike, hiked up the ridge road to a food plot and semi-bushwhacked down to FS141. I'm weak on terrain-following, so I worked on that. No compass. I did get a little help from the Rangers though, they'd put little reflective dots on some of the trees and there was sort-of a clear path down that kind-of followed an old logging road most of the way. I'd planned on continuing across the center of the Montgomery Creek Loop to one of the trails that leads to the training course. That went well until I mistook Montgomery Creek for the Etowah and spent about 30 minutes dragging my bike up and down the only hill in the entire area that doesn't have a trail on it. Eventually I figured out what I'd done wrong, crossed an extremely slippery shoal (in cycling shoes) and climbed directly up the side of another incredibly steep hill to get back on track. I did manage to find a pretty nice waterfall that I've heard a dozen times but never had the time to go down and check out before. I'll have to go take a photo of it when it's still light outside.

I spent longer out there than I'd meant to, but my light lasted the whole time and it was fun. Hopefully I can make it a weekly thing, and hopefully the weather will cooperate.

I got off the trail around 10:30 and by the time I got back to civilization, the only place open to grab a bite to eat was Waffle House. Some dude there had a "random facts" app for his phone and was quoting them to the staff. They were all having a good time. At first it was kind of annoying, but it grew on me and I found myself interested in hearing the next fact. "For every dollar you spend on gasoline, 27 cents go to some kind of tax." "In the '80's a computer couldn't call itself IBM compatible unless it could run Microsoft Flight Simulator." I wish I could remember more. They were pretty good.

No more typing. Time to sleep.

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